DEAR BEVERLY,

I suppose you want to know about the Inauguration. Since it was our first, we didn't know what to expect until a clue arrived in a form letter sent to us, not by the Protocol Department, but by someone more knowledgeable -- a Washington podiatrist. In his letter, he said that foot disorders during this period are particularly common among diplomats, senators and Mr. Secretaries, who spend much of their time at receptions and ceremonial events shifting their feet or, even worse, rocking back and forth on the heels instead of moving the feet forcefully from one place to another. (That latter phrase, I told Mr. Ambassador, tugging his arm at one of the Inaugural stand-up receptions, is a euphemism for going home to bed.) Joe Promisall, the world's most expensive lobbyist, also received the letter and, having a sharp eye for a bargain, thought we could get a group rate if we threw in Sen. Pod and Baron Spitte, the dusty dislomat, and Popsie Tribble, who attended every chic stand-up party during the Inaugural period.

"Maybe," Joe Promisall said, "we could even include the president." Promisall is something of a visionary, Beverly, which occasionally hampers his sense of reality.

I can't tell you about the parade because it was canceled on account of the cold weather. As usual the Powerful Jobs blamed Canada, so I told them if they intended to put quotas on our exports to the United States, our trade people would be ready to accept any limitation Congress desired on our wind chill factor and frigid air. Mr. Ambassador agreed that it would be a good bargaining chip.

Aside from the weather, bunions and heel spurs, there were two other aspects of the Inauguration festivities that disturbed "wife of": reading about the parties I wasn't invited to and reading about the parties I did attend.

At the parties I did attend I would usually spend my time talking to a familiar "wife of," amidst the maelstrom of people circling around us, about foot disorders and what the family did at Christmas. The next day I'd scan the social pages and discover I was at the same party as Don Rickles, Merv Griffin, Oscar de la Renta, a lot of the "W" set, and a fairly handsome actor who works on television named Tom Selleck. I didn't recognize any of them, Beverly, and, needless to say, none of them recognized me. Actually someone pointed out Tom Selleck, but I didn't approach him because I wasn't sure we had anything in common. The only conversation I have cultivated to any extent, since I've been in Washington, concerns trade imbalances. Somehow I didn't think he or even Don Rickles would go for that. Beverly, I did meet Esther Williams and told her I was a swimmer too. She responded politely but without the enthusiasm I had hoped for. I told Popsie that I wanted to try out trade imbalances on Frank Sinatra, but he wasn't at any of the parties I attended.

Popsie, of course, went to every "in" party. "Authentic 'in' party-goers," she explained, "like myself, become weary of hearing 'Hail to the Chief' played so often everywhere we go."

Popsie refused to attend the Inaugural balls.

"Once is enough. I don't want all those strangers from Wisconsin and Idaho pressing against my Herrera velvet."

Well, Popsie does know everybody who counts as well as how to behave at a large "in" party. She walks in with her eyes slightly unfocused, staring into mid-distance. This no-eye-contact technique prevents her from being trapped by former Mr. Secretaries, Used-to-Be-Close-To's, as well as yours truly. She maneuvers herself beside a member of her peer group and whispers into the Famous Name's ear until she has to go to the next party.

Beverly, the technique works. Her name and picture appeared more often in the newspapers than any other "wife of" in Powertown. She has the clippings to prove it. And she's the first of our group to make an appointment with the podiatrist because of a potential hammertoe problem.

Mr. Ambassador went to the public swearing-in ceremony ("wives of" were canceled because of the weather) and told me everything went smoothly because the security had been organized by Kojak, who must have been hired especially for the event, since he was present at the Capitol during the ceremony.

We discovered that the Inaugural balls are not for dancing but for waiting. Over 40,000 people paid up to $125 a ticket to stand for hours until the band struckup the only tune they wanted to hear. Most people aren't "in" like Popsie, and waiting for "Hail to the Chief" didn't weary them at all.

The Inaugural is supposed to be over, Beverly, but a kind of half-life lingers on. The out-of-towners don't get out of Washington fast enough, so Popsie had to give a post-Inauguration cocktail for some Californians and New Yorkers. I wonder if anyone from Wisconsin has ever been in her house.

Your best friend,

Sondra